The school year is about to wind down and it won’t be long before many kids will be signing up for summer sports programs.
If you’re child loves sports, there’s not a season where he or she can’t find one to participate in. Sports often help children stay in better physical shape, feel good about them selves and with team sports, enjoy social interaction and competition.
However, all sports have a certain amount of risks associated with them - some more than others. The more contact the sport provides, the greater the risk for a traumatic injury. Fortunately, traumatic injuries are rare and most sport injuries to young athletes are due to overuse.
The most common sport-related injuries are sprains (ligament injuries) , stress fractures( bone injuries) and strains (muscle injuries).Since children’s bodies are still developing, any tenderness over a bone should be evaluated further by a medical provider even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips to help reduce serious injuries in younger athletes:
• Time off. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week from a particular sport to allow the body to recover.
• Wear the right gear. Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear. Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will always protect them when performing more dangerous or risky activities.
• Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
• Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises before and after games or practice can increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.
• Use the proper technique. This should be reinforced during the playing season.
• Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
• Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), and spearing (football) should be enforced.
• Stop the activity if there is pain.
• Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play; decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods; wear light clothing.
While physical injuries are easier to see, sports-related emotional stress can also cause problems for some children. The pressure to win at all costs can add a lot of emotional stress to children who are more interested in playing than always being first.
Not every team is going to win every game, and there will be times when kids involved in more singular sports won’t have a good day. It happens to everyone at some time or another; ask any pro athlete. Young athletes should be judged on effort, sportsmanship and hard work. They should be rewarded for trying hard and for improving their skills rather than punished or criticized for losing a game or competition. The main goal should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.
There are numerous sports that children can engage in and each one offers its own benefits. As parents, it’s important to encourage our children and keep them as healthy as possible.